Worlds & Time

Monday, January 15, 2007

Statistically

Backdated a day to reflect when I started it.

I got a CAT scan last Thursday, and I had a visit with my orthopedic surgeon today. There’s good news and bad news.

First, the good news: I probably won’t need surgery at all. I should recover to the point where I’m statistically as good as new.

Now, if you’re wondering about that statistically, let me move on to the bad news: It will probably be another three months in the neck brace during which I get to sit around and be bored out of my mind.

What’s happening is that my neck broke in two places, and while my left side is healing just fine, my right side isn’t knitting together the way that it’s supposed to. It might not mend at all.

As long as the one side heals, it should function normally, even though it won’t be quite normal. So, while it’s statistically possible that this will somehow weaken the structure of my neck, chances are that it won’t ever actually have any deleterious effect on me.

So, statistically I’ll be as good as new.

In three more months.

Yarg. Three more months of this.

Another bit on statistics.

I had a problem with lesbian professors in college. There was some fundamental disconnect in my mind between what I perceived in reality and what I was reading in the feminist textbooks we were reading and discussing in class. Everything I said was an attack on them (i.e. lesbian college professors), and after a while I got tired of it.

Then there was this not-a-lesbian who was also a bit of a rides-a-motorcycle, wore-leather-jacket-to-class, very-butch, brought-in-her-dog-occasionally and I-was-talking-with-another-professor-who-thought-she-was-lesbian-and-told me-that-she-was-one who kicked me out of her class, but that’s an entirely different story.

Back on topic, I was sitting around before class with one of my lesbian professors and we were talking. Somehow I suggested that I wanted to teach a class. The woman next to me asked what I would teach, and I outlined a class about exploring the way that humans form and keep stereotypes.

Have you ever watched the television show House, and he looks around and figures out exactly what is going on with everyone around him? He does that using a set of carefully crafted stereotypes.

I had this idea for the first day of class, where students would come in. I’d call a couple of people up to the front of the room, and I’d ask the class to answer a series of questions about what our stereotypes informed us about them based on their appearance.

While I was talking about this, the lesbian professor was looking at me. I don’t remember what she said exactly, but I still remember the look. Basically the upshot was that it was a stupid idea for a class, that she didn’t think I was capable of being an instructor, and that stereotypes were bad because of racism/sexism/homophobia.

Obviously I’d need to do more reading on the subject, but considering the slapstick nature of the class (Queer Flims . . . which turned into Lesbian Films starring relatively attractive women plus a couple of old Jack Lemmon movies), I was really surprised by the vehemence of the negative reaction. If you teach fluff, perhaps you shouldn’t be so critical of other people’s class ideas.

I acknowledge that I couldn’t do it off the top of my head. I’d definitely do some reading before hand, but the general shape of the class is fairly clear to me.

You start out with an examination of what stereotypes are, and how they relate to topics such as racism, sexism, and prejudice. Talk about how we automatically create a personal “us-centrism” that informs how we react to interpersonal stimuli.

You examine negative stereotypes more in depth, and then the stereotype that stereotypes are negative. Take a couple of classes to talk about various groups in depth.

After that, I’d want to talk about how stereotypes can be useful, and harmless. I’d start with a day or so examining the way we subconsciously form stereotypes all the time, from infancy onward. I’d move onto branding.

Branding is actually a fairly deep subject by itself. I could make a week or even two weeks out of marketing products, politics, and ideas. It’s amazing how we ignore the fact that there is a multibillion dollar industry of creating stereotypes and selling them to people.

My worst topic (and therefore what I would end with), would be the actual statistics of stereotyping. Generalizing without understanding the probabilities of your assumptions is stupid. It’s what makes House such as amazing character. He examines all situations in terms of causality and understands the statistical basis for what he does.

That’s my other story about statistics.

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